Policeman and calypsonian Duane O’Connor withstood the competition of 11 other finalists to take custody of the 2012 National Calypso Monarch title at the Dimanche Gras show at the Queen’s Park Savannah, and that of 17 rivals two weeks earlier to capture the Young Kings title at Napa (at the age of 33). Combining his policing and singing experience he arrested the imagination of the fans and judges alike in his hunt for both titles with his powerful and passionate renditions of The Hunt Is On and Long Live Kaiso. No stranger to the calypso art form, and with the height of a basketball player, well over six feet, he has been competing since his school days. The calypso champion told the Sunday Guardian: “I have been after these titles for a long time, calypso has been my love ever since I was a child. My folks would tell you that I would be prancing to calypso in my playpen and later on I would be singing using a hairbrush as the microphone.” Among his many achievements in the calypso arena are: winner of Stars of Tomorrow in 1994 and 1999; seven-time Stars of Tomorrow Awardee; two-time Stars of Gold Awardee; eight-time Young Kings finalist; five-time National Calypso Monarch semifinalist; five-time Unattached Calypso Monarch finalist; and winner of the Emancipation Calypso Monarch title in 2003. He is also the reigning Tuco North Zone Calypso Monarch and winner of the 2012 Social Commentary category. Topical in content, some of his calypsoes include One for Kitch, All for Status, Forget the Branch, Stand T&T, Thriller, Sartorial Elegance and J’Ouvert Morning. His debut CD was entitled The Right Voice.
Q: Tell our readers about what prompted your choice of the two calypsoes The Hunt Is On and Long Live Kaiso.
A: The Hunt Is On was influenced by the popularity of the popular TV show host Ian Alleyne and Long Live Calypso is a true experience where as a calypso lover I only listen to calypso and people, even family members, would ask me why I listen to calypso so much, if I don’t get fed up. Could anyone tell me how does someone like me get fed up of calypso music which I have loved for all my life?
What do you plan to do with your winning prize of $1 million?
I’m gonna build a house for my mother, who is ill, to live in and be comfortable in her later years. Also, I’m gonna go after my dream of opening my own restaurant and catering business. Also, I’m gonna invest for my son’s future and marry the love of my life Donessa Wickham.
What inspires you to do what you do?
The fact that our ancestors struggled so hard for our music and to see where it has come today. I need to keep their works and traditions alive and hope to influence others to follow suit.
Who were the people who have influenced you the most (outside of your family) in your singing career, and how did they?
Marva Mc Kenzie, former National Calypso Queen, took me to my first calypso competition and has always been there for me ever since.
What advice would you give to anyone contemplating a vocation such as yours?
Hmm…that perseverance overcomes all obstacles. You need to hang in there.
What is your favourite thing about Carnival?
I love going to all the calypso tents at the beginning of the season to hear all the calypsoes.
Who is your favourite entertainers/calypsonian?
Kelvin Pope, the Mighty Duke. He was really great…born a pope, crowned a king, named a duke, as I sang in my calypso Sartorial Elegance in tribute to him.
When and how did you get into entertaining?
In 1994 Marva Mc Kenzie saw my talent and took me to my first audition.
Of all your accolades, accomplishments, prizes and awards, which do you rate as extremely special?
That’s easy…the 2012 Calypso Monarch and Young King titles, and being adjudged the Social Category winner.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Cocorite, St James, and still live there.
At which schools/institutions did you receive your education?
Miss White Pre School in St James, Newtown Boys’ RC, Tranquillity Government Secondary, Diego Martin Finishing School, UWI Sixth Form, K Beckles & Associates where I am pursuing a law degree.
Are you a full-time entertainer? If not, what else do you do for a living?
I’m a police officer.
What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?
It was hard going into training for the police service and having to leave my mom with someone else to take care of her for a few months.
What is an interesting facet of Duane O’Connor’s personality that most people do not know about?
Hmmm…that I am a very spiritual person.
If you had to interview someone from Trinidad and Tobago who you did not know and had to ask just one question, who would it be and what would be the one question?
Someone who owns a radio station and does not play a good percentage of calypso and ask them why they do not play our music and what has such good music done to them. That really bothers me!
Who was your hero growing up and why?
Kelvin Pope, The Mighty Duke, because of his humility and character.
What daily motto/credo do you live by and in three words, your recipe for success?
Again, perseverance overcomes all obstacles. Prayer, humility, love.
What is your favourite pastime/ hobby outside of entertaining?
Travelling...visiting family abroad.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
What were your dreams of the future when you were a child?
That’s an easy one…to be a calypsonian (laughing).
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
Continuing my work of spreading the calypso music to greater places and letting the world understand how great it is.
What is/are the most important lesson/s you’ve learned in life?
Pay respect where respect is due.
What advice would you give to the young people of Trinidad and Tobago?
Let’s see….remember God and pray constantly. That’s about it really.
If you could dine with anyone in history who would it be and why? What dinner conversation would you have with that person?
Dr Eric Williams, and I’ll ask him in his vision for T&T if he saw it this way today or what he would do if he was still around.
Your favourite form of relaxation?
I just love to be at home with family. Oh, and I am a good cook (laughing).
What is the best compliment you have every received?
You’re the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen.
Who are the loves of your life?
My mother Shirley O’Connor, my girlfriend Donessa Wickham, and my son Ta’zyah O’Connor.
If you had to switch places with someone else for a week who would that be?
No one ’cause I know my life is perfect, God has been so good to me.